HomePick of the DayFast cruiser Datsun 280 ZX Turbo rekindles Z car fervor

Fast cruiser Datsun 280 ZX Turbo rekindles Z car fervor


When Datsun introduced the 240Z car in 1969, it created one of the most disruptive products that the sports car market had ever seen. The car offered the performance of such cars as the Jaguar E-Type, the styling reminiscent of the Ferrari 275 GTB, and reliability that was better than either.

Even more outrageous is that they did all this at around the same price of an Alfa Romeo or Triumph, both older style sports cars. The car was an immediate success, both on the sales floor as well as the race track, starting a trend of success for the Z cars that continues today.

The 280ZX continued the styling of the original Z in a plusher pckage

The original Z car went through three distinct generations with minor improvements and changes, many to satisfy DOT regulations centered around safety and emissions. During that, the time the overall idea of the Z car was that of a sports car.

This changed in 1978 with the introduction of the 280ZX that, while having similar styling to the older Z cars, had been turned into a GT from a sports car. Despite this and despite enthusiasts’ complaints, the ZX sold quite well and delivered on consumer demands for greater comfort and amenities in a sporting car.

In 1981, Datsun quelled many of the complaints by introducing a turbocharged version of the 280ZX, capable of 0-60 times as low as 7.4 seconds, making it faster than the Porsche 911SC, a car that cost considerably more money both to buy and maintain.

The turbocharged inline-6 provides lots of thrust

It did not hurt that the 280ZX in this period once again became a dominant force in professional sports car racing, often in the hands of movie star and race driver Paul Newman, winning IMSA championships in 1979, 80, 82 and 83.

The Pick of the Day is  a 1983 Datsun 280ZX Turbo offered by a dealer in Cadillac, Michigan, advertising the car on ClassicCars.com. It is said to have a total of only 71,800 miles from new and reported to be completely original.

Like most ZX Turbo cars, this example is loaded with options including factory A/C, power Steering, a factory AM/FM cassette stereo, T-tops with inside covers, and red velour interior.

Red velour seating is a pure ’80s touch

This car is also equipped with an automatic transmission. Now before you start to groan, keep well in mind that the 280ZX equipped with an automatic is actually quicker from 0-60 than the manual transmission version.

For years, the 280ZX was looked down on by purists in the Z car community, but this is starting to change. People these days are remembering all that was good about them when new. They also accept that the 280ZX was the last car to incorporate so much of the early Z car design language, making it the final entry.

As a result, prices are starting to climb.  But this well-kept, low-mileage example is a strong deal with an asking price of only $12,995.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.


  1. I had a 1979 Z and loved it. It had a lot of zip. I bought it used and put a new clutch in it. Only problem is we live in Wisconsin and the rust got to it early. 😎


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